Sunday, 24 May 2009

Diana Watch

Sorry about last week xx I had no internet connection so couldn't post anything. To be honest it was my fault that the internet broke. “How hard can it be to set up a small network of 2 computers at home?” I thought to myself. It turns out that it is quite hard. Many odd things happened to our PC so I had to restore factory settings and then I couldn't re-install the modem drivers and other techy nonsense, so no internet access. Sorry again, but no one complained.

I think we shall only have a short blog this week because I haven't really been concentrating on the news that much. Had some stuff on my mind. I know I don't usually use this for personal stuff but that's not going to stop me.
I have got a new job. Well a bit of one. I'm going to work part-time, to start with, in a new GP surgery in Weymouth. I have handed in my notice and my last working day at my current place of work, were I have been for roughly 16 years, is June 8th.
I have to be honest; I'm a little scared for several reasons. It's a new post so I not completely sure what I'm going to be doing and for a while it is going to be part-time and I am going to have to continue to work in the hospital as a bank nurse so my income is going to be unreliable for a while. I'm not a risk taker. OK, so I've bungee jumped and rode my bike off of things but those were only transient things. This is money. My mortgage payments people but I'm sure it will be fine. It will be fine. Please tell me it will be fine. Like I said, I've worked in the same place for 16 years with a constant income, oh god, what have I done?
No, it will be good for me. I need a change.

Some news has happened this week but it has mostly been about MPs expenses, still. Today is day 17 of the Daily Telegraph doing exactly what I predicted they would. Every day they publish the expenses of 4 or 5 MPs and manage to cause a bit of a fuss.
Now, whilst I agree that some of the expenses are a little outlandish and some border on fraud, I'm still not that interested. Is it getting so much coverage because it is really easy to understand, it's poorly reported sometimes but it's easy to understand, unlike the financial crisis which seems to be taking up very few column inches at the moment. We need to have a national debate (horrid phrase) about the national finances. How are we going to pay for this new massive level of debt? Are we going to cutting funding for the NHS and Schools? Or the Armed Forces? What reform of banking do we need to stop these things happening again? These are the important issues not second home allowances.
The one thing that has come out of all this tedium is the ever present class difference between the 2 main parties and what they spend their ill-gotten gains upon. Working class Labour people spend their money on Mock-Tudor beams and fucking big televisions, to quote Irvin Welsh, whilst all ready rich Tory MPs used it for much more interesting things. £1600 for a floating duck house. £4000 to have a moat cleaned, I mean, who has a moat? Is he worried about Dragons? And my local member of parliament spent £2000 on getting a pipe under his tennis court fixed and than claimed in a local paper that he felt that he was being picked on. You spent £2000 on fixing your tennis court! Not really essential for being in London on week nights is it?
What is upsetting is that David Cameron has come across as a man in charge, where as Gordon Brown has looked ponderous and slow footed. It is a shame but I think we are in the death throws of this Labour Government. Please vote Liberal Democrat. I know you probably won't but it would be nice.

Another thing that doesn't interest me but I'm going to write about was the Jordan and Peter Andre splitting up thing. I was amused by the statement they released asking for some privacy at this time. Really? Privacy? You two? A relationship that was born on reality television and then developed on reality television, with wedding photos sold exclusively to a magazine. Oh yes and then exclusive interviews with The Sun and OK magazine since that statement. Don't you think that it's a bit late for that? Some cynical people have hypothesised that this is just a publicity stunt but even I hadn't thought of that.
I have used the unfortunate situation for the children to judge my “friends” on Facebook. So far I have only deleted one of them for mentioning Peter and Jordan one of their status updates but I will not hesitate in acting if it happens again.

1600 people have been arrested on terrorist charges in the UK since 9 of November 2001, oh no sorry September the 11th 2001 (Stuart Lee joke there) but how many of them have been convicted on these charges? Less than 10%. More have been convicted of immigration offences than terrorism. I think we may be trying to hard.
And while we are talking about terrorism related things, Guantanamo Bay. President Obama wants to shut it down but is having a little trouble because, well to be honest I'm not sure why. The level of the debate is so low that I'm not sure that any rational arguments have been made. The Saviour of the free world would like to bring the suspected evil-doers to America and charge them properly. Making sure that they have fair trials and are properly represented, however some think that this is a bad idea. Not just the fair trials things but just the bring them to America bit. I can't tell you why because I really didn't understand. “Don't bring them here, they could radicalise us or kill us all or something.” They are in prison! I'm pretty sure that there are some bad people in America who are in prison and you don't seem to have a problem with them. No one has ever escaped from one of your super high security prisons. These ALLEGED terrorist aren't that clever, they got caught, so I don't think they are going to be tunnelling out or hiding in laundry trucks.
You decided that they may have done something bad so you should sort it out. We charge and imprison our terrorists, not as many as we arrest obviously, but that is how it works.

My own awards now, because they won't let me on the panel in Cannes,

The Award for Stating the Obvious of the Week,

This goes to More4 news who, whist showing some footage of the English Civil War, felt it necessary to put the word “Re-enactment” along the bottom screen. Well thank you for that.

The Award for Icky Product of the Week,

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Lanacane Anti-Chaffing Gel. This is a gel to stop the fat bits of fat people rubbing together as they walk. Oh that is nice. I would imagine that if you have to buy a gel to stop your thighs starting a fire as you stroll to the fridge, you should maybe consider not eating any more for a while.

So I have a new job but I have been turned down for a couple recently. I was not the new Bond nor Dr Who and it was announced this week that I am not going to be Britain's first astronaut either. Some bloke who was appropriately qualified for the job and called Major Tim Peake seems to have got it instead, Git.

Have a good week; I'm off to worry a bit more.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Diana Watch

“Are you tired of calloused skin tearing your tights?”

Again with the starting with the question thing, the new Britney Spears is supposed to be a bit rude, or at least the chorus is, something about “If you see Amy” but I don't get it. Can somebody help me?

The Daily Mail likes to think of it's self as a morally upstanding publication and certainly better than the red top's that print pictures of scantily clad young ladies. However if you look at the front of this rag you will notice that they have their own type of middle class tottie and they love to print pictures of them, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, etc. On Monday they excelled themselves with a story about getting mugged whilst on her gap year. All the other papers used a respectful picture of her, fully clothed, attending a party or some such. The Mail on the other hand decided that a story about the assault of a minor royal was the perfect opportunity to republish a picture of her that was on the front pages of most of the papers a couple of weeks ago. It was a picture of her in a Bikini. Not really very respectful.
Oh, and whilst I'm Mail bashing, a favourite activity of mine but you know that already, let us mention a nice bit of hypocrisy. Thank you to Twitter for this one. In this country The Mail has started to move against the vaccine for cervical cancer, running the usually type of scare story and moral(ish) campaigns, one person had a bit of a reaction so it's clearly going to kill us all and protecting girls from an STD that causes cancer that will kill them encourages them to have sex, you know the sort of thing. However if you purchase the same paper on the other side of the Irish Sea you would get more than a little confused. In Ireland they do not have a vaccination program and the Irish Mail thinks this is a terrible thing; they even have a campaign to roll out a national program.
I don't mind which side of an argument you come down on but please stick to one.
On the same day the mighty Daily Express, you daily source of xenophobia bordering on racism, run the headline “Each Illegal Immigrant To Cost Us £1m”. I read the story and it made me feel dirty, but not in the fun way. Absolutely no evidence was offered for this claim at all. They claimed that the think-tank Migrationwatch had calculated this figure but offered no numbers at all. It did say at the end of the article however that Migrationwatch had said that an amnesty for illegal immigrants “COULD (capitals mine) end up costing the taxpayer £1 million”. A slightly different spin from the headline.

There's no smoke without fire. So goes the saying and so goes Government policy on the DNA Database. Despite the fact that the European Court ruled that the retention of samples of those found guilty of no crime was illegal, our Government seems to have decided to sort of ignore that. The new and exciting rules are a little odd. If you are arrested but not charged or found not guilty of a charge then the Government wants to keep your genetic code for between 6 to 12 years and their argument seems to be "We've arrested you for something so the likelihood is you will do something wrong at sometime". There was also a differentiation made between a sample and a profile. It was said that they would destroy the sample but keep the profile there by missing the point of peoples problems with the database.
Again the point was made, “If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about." Whilst this is sort of true, it is also a really weak argument. I have nothing to fear, I am a law abiding sort of bloke. I pick up litter, I don't even speed, yet I object to be followed everywhere on CCTV. I don't want someone that I do not know knowing where I am all the time. Well, they can track your mobile phone signal. Yes the phone company can but I pay them to know where my phone is and I can turn it off so that they can't tell where I am. I also don't want ANYONE to hold my genetic code other than me. You can tell a lot about a person from their genetics you know. Many companies would pay very good money for that sort of information.
There are only 2 sensible ways to run a DNA Database. You either have only the profiles of those convicted of a crime or you have everybody, there is no in-between system. When I say sensible, I really mean logical. The only sensible way is to have the samples of those convicted.

Do we care that much about MP's expenses? Our press do. The Telegraph really does as they paid an awful lot of money for a disc full of photocopies of receipts used by our MP's back up their expense claims.
One of the reasons that they love the story is the gift that keeps on giving aspect of it. You can publish a few MP’s on each day for as long as you have them and there are 646 of them so this could take a while. Whilst some do look a little suspicious, one cabinet minister seems to claim her exact allowance every year to the pound, most of them seem to have played the system a bit. The one that many focused on was Gordon Brown paid £6000 to his brother for a cleaner. That's a lot of money some may say and, to his brother? Out of context it does seem a little bad but let us remember who is publishing these things. The Telegraph is not a Labour supporting paper. So let us put them into context. He paid £6000 over 3 years. That's £2000 a year or £38.50 a week. Damn! that is a cheap cleaner and in London as well. Who said this man knew nothing of economics? And the payment went through his brother because they both employed the same cleaner and that was the easiest way of doing it. Several of the papers “look at what they claimed” stories are merely based on the receipts and not on the claims forms. “He claimed for women's clothes and sanitary products” the papers scream. No, no he didn't. What you have there is raw data and absolutely no idea what it means. He claimed for the things on the receipt that he is allowed to claim for, check his claim form, the receipt is only there to show that the things that were claimed for were actually bought.
I agree that the system could do with a little tweaking but such a fuss is being made. You try living in having 2 homes; one of them has to be in London, whilst earning £65,000. OK, it sounds like a lot but 2 mortgages?
What really needs working on are the rules about second jobs. I'd also like to see some rules on what MP s can do after they leave Parliament. Surely it can't be right that those who were lobbied by a big business whilst they were an MP to then leave and immediately get a job with that company. Surely they had a conflict of interest? Even if they didn't, it certainly looks like they did.

I've been on holiday this week and have avoided quite a lot of news so the awards are a bit grumpy old manish, sorry,

The Award for Being Really Annoying Part 1,

This goes to Waitrose who no longer sell Schapps Bitter Lemon in 1 litre bottles. What am I supposed to mix with my gin if I don't fancy tonic? They do sell it in tiny cans though, very strange.

The Award for Being Really Annoying Part 2

Sorry. Let's get that out of the way to start with because I'm going to sound really uncharitable in about 10 seconds time. “chuggers” or charity muggers really annoy me. You know the people I mean. You walking down your local high street and you spot a group of 4 young people with clip boards and tabbards and you know that you are going to approached and asked if you care about children/animals/old people/rain forest/steam trains (less likely I know but it can happen) and you can't say no I don't, leave me alone because you look like a bastard. So I have taken to avoiding them. Why I am worried about looking like a bastard in front of people who I've never met before and won't again and who are getting paid to separate me from my money is quite beyond me, but I do. Thursday afternoon I went into town with the aim of getting milk and an M&S voucher for my mother's birthday, I know it's a bit rubbish but it's what she wanted. I arrived home with only the milk. Why did you fail in such a way you may ask, you probably won't but I'm going to tell you anyway. I got as far as Blacks the camping shop in Town and noticed an active group of Chuggers. I couldn't be bothered to fight my way through them and just went to Waitrose to get the milk, but no bitter lemon. Charity costs M&S a sale. Did get it on Friday though so no moral to this really.

The Award for Action that Misses The Point of the Week.

This goes to the German government who, according to Saturdays Guardian, in response to a recent mass shooting are trying to pass emergency laws banning paint balling and laser quest. Well done that Government. Makes a change from blaming Marilyn Manson I suppose.

Oh and one more thing. To those companies who make cider, a cider made from pears is called a Perry not pear cider.
Back to work now which is really rather depressing but I didn't win the Euromillions jackpot on Friday so I still have to work for a living, which is a shame. Hope you all have a good week. It's Eurovision next Saturday (16th) which is something to look forward too but have decided where to watch it yet, any offers?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Diana Watch

“It's a hectare of badger mayhem!”

So, embarrassing incident of the week then. It isn't an award, I just thought I'd start with it. We pulled into Fleet Service station on the M3 on Saturday morning in order to avail ourselves of the facilities. As I wondered into the Men's I noticed that I had dry lips and decided, sub-consciously obviously, to lick my lips. As I did so I made eye contact with some bloke with his winky out, having a wee. He looks up from his task to see a skinny bloke licking his lips in his general direction. Oh dear. Then I headed straight for him to use the urinal next to his. I'm not sure I could have made it look any more gay if I had tried. Well maybe I could have offered to shake it for him when he'd finished, but apart from that, not much more gay. Ah well.

So this is the week that Gordon Brown did his best Amy Winehouse impression. By this I do not mean that he developed a life threatening drug habit or released a critically acclaimed soul album influenced by 60's girl bands. No, by this I mean that he said “no, no, no”. Sorry, that was a poor joke.
He started off by saying “no” to Titan prisons because they would cost a lot and not because they are a spectacularly poor idea. Have you seen how bad giant American prisons are? Gangs rule the roost and the guards only exist to stop them getting out, not to bring any form of discipline and rehabilitation. As with last weeks point that privatised home care is a bad idea because the contract goes to the lowest bidder who then has to make a profit so corners are bound to be cut, the same would be true for a private super prison. Money would be spent on cheap things like razor wire and saved on things like education and staff training. And by the way, isn't “Titan” a type of gay condom? Available in all good motorway service stations. I've said too much.
Then the Government seemed to back down over their plans for a giant database to record all our email addresses, mobile phone contacts and websites visited. This is a good thing, a great thing even but instead they just want your ISP to give them information that they wanted in the first place. So not so good then. I did sign up for a email campaign that I heard about through Twitter. The idea was, before the welcomed Government climb down, that on the same day we would all CC the emails that we sent to Jacqui Smith. The thought being, you want to read them, well here they are. Might bring down the Home Office servers though. Oh well, a small price to pay for National Security isn't it Mrs Smith?
The third “no” of the week was one of the hastiest political U-turns for quite a while. On Sunday of last week Gordon Brown released a video on Youtube, you know, that well known forum for in depth political debate and calling other people “cunts” via the medium of anonymous comments, telling us how he wanted to change the MPs allowance system. He wanted to replace the second homes allowance (a system introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1983, see I do my research for this, sometimes) with a daily payment for just turning up. There was to be very little debate and let's ignore the review that Gordon set up himself into the expenses issue and just cobble something together in order for some positive headlines.
By Wednesday night these plans had been dropped from Thursdays vote. And who says that this Government can't get anything done? That is speedy backtracking in anyone's book. All the Tories have to do to win the next election in shut up and let Mr Brown repeatedly shoot himself in the foot. All right thinking people pray to the God of all that is good that they won't but let's be honest, it's starting to creep into the back of your mind. We have about a year to go until the next election and unless the Economy recovers spectacularly and our Prime Minister wins this series of “Britain's Got Talent” with a note perfect rendition, the singing kind not the extraordinary kind (poor political satire there), of “My Way”, “Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, not over my plans to reform MPs expenses”, it is likely that an Eton boy with little experience life other than in Westminster will be our next Leader. I think I'd rather be in this mess than in that one.

I'm going to ignore Swine Flu, or Mexican Flu as Israel would like us to call it as Jews and Muslims consider the pig to be an unclean animal and don't like the sigma attached to catching swine flu but are happy enough for an entire nation to be stigmatised, always thinking of others the Israelis, as after only 7 days it seems it's not as bad as they thought it might be. The rules of diminished returns here. Every time the WHO cries “Wolf!” and we all panic (when I say we, I mean the media and an Asian man who I saw in Canterbury today wearing a mask) and then nothing happens they loose a little bit of credibility. One day we might stop listening and there may be some killer bug. Someone should write a cautionary tale about this sort of thing, you could call it “The Organisation Dedicated to the Improvement of World Health that Cried There Is a possible World Influenza Pandemic Coming” or something snappier involving a wolf.
OK so I'm not going to leave it alone but I did try and it was better than the rise in Card fraud since the introduction of Chip and Pin, which is what I was going to do. The news kept saying that Chip and Pin was bought in to reduce crime which is not entirely true. It was bought in to shift liability for that crime from the Bank to the Card holder, if some one gets your PIN (not PIN number, that's a tautology, what do you think the N stands for) it's your fault not theirs, some your have to pay for it.

OK, onto the awards then as I have dribbled on enough. Oh, new netbook by the way, very cool.

The Award for Publicity Stunt That Went So Wrong of the Week,

What could be nicer for the American People to see during these difficult times then a picture of an icon, in this case Air Force 1, flying low past another icon, say the Statue Of Liberty? They did it with Mount Rushmore and the afore mentioned plane, why not again with the Statue. Well, for one reason because of incredible amounts of Presidential security it was decided not to tell anyone that they were going to do it. Another might be because you would have to fly a very large plane low over a densely packed metropolis but that will be OK as long as haven't recently suffered from some sort of plane based terrorist act. Where is the Statue of Liberty, oh yes, it just off Manhattan Island. Still, won't go that badly will it? Oh yes it will. People running out of buildings screaming I'm lead to believe.

The Award for My Most Favourite New Thing of the Week,

I love a podcast and I have found a new one this week, well was told about. It is called “Answer Me This” and I love it, very funny indeed and Sony Award nominated. There is nothing nicer than finding a new podcast and then finding it has a massive back catalogue.

The Award for Selling Your Principles To The Highest Bidder of the Week,

A report this week pointed out, again, that breakfast cereals aimed at children have quite a lot of sugar in them. When I say quite a lot, I mean up to 37% sugar. This was reported on BBC Breakfast and they had a Doctor, well nutritionist who seemed to be called Doctor, from the Breakfast Cereal Defence League or some such in order to defend Coco Pops et al. “Sugar is a Carbohydrate and Children need energy”. Really, is that what you have been taught or did you read that on the back of a cereal packet?

The Award for Excellent Taste By An American State of the Week,

I know absolutely nothing about the great State of Oklahoma other than the wind comes rushing down the plain there and the band Flaming Lips are from there but it seems that this State had a vote to find a State song. I'm sure there was a fine choice of excellent songs but the good people of Oklahoma, where the wind comes rushing down the plain, decided upon “Do you Realise?” by the aforementioned Flaming Lips. It is a beautiful song that points out that we will all die and it really is a good idea to tell those that you love that you love them before its too late and they die without knowing of your love. I know it sounds depressing but it really is uplifting. It's on their album “Yoshime battles the pink robots”, do check it out on Spotify.
Anyway, back to the vote, the people of Oklahoma, where the wind comes rushing down the plain voted for this song but the States House of Representatives, always in touch with the Electorate, voted to ignore the will of the people because, now wait, this is good, because the band have a reputation for “Using obscene language” and wearing “Offensive T-shirts”. Why is this important to them? It wasn't important to the voters who were voting on a SONG! It wasn't important to the Governor who over ruled you with an Executive Order. An indie band is the subject of an Executive Order, how cool is that?
This is one of the things that confuses the rest of the world about America. It seems that, to them, swearing is the worst thing in the world. Yes, it is a little poor but really? The worst thing? Guns, OK. Massive Governmental abuses of power, OK. But if anyone swears? Throw stones at them and ostracise them because they are the spawn of the Devil.

Have a good week. I'm on holiday this week and intend on spending most of it at the allotment and then watching the last 5 episodes of Series 1 of The Wire.